Sometimes I fall out of the blogiverse from lack of inspiration, or from boredom. The past two weeks have been the opposite. I’ve been so busy having adventures that I haven’t had time to document them all! An excellent problem to have, and one that I’m sitting down to rectify at 10:30 on a Wednesday night.
Don’t worry, there are lots of pictures.
As my professional/social network grows, I managed to get Miss Chef and myself invited to an oven party. Perfect for a chef, eh? The deal is this couple have an outdoor wood-fired oven that they fire up, invite all the neighbors, and have everyone make their own pizzas to cook up.
One of the guys is an artist, working in ceramics. So the oven has a unique appearance, like a miniature Gaudi home imported from Barcelona.
You can almost make out the name above the opening: Château d’Ough. Get it? It’s a pun on the French “château d’eau,” which is pronounced the same but simply means water tower. We’re getting all European up in here.
The oven is surrounded by a lush backyard, complete with a huge dining table and granite-topped counters. It’s a perfect place to gather on a perfect fall evening, so it’s not surprising that it was packed by the time the pizzas were going in.
Of course, the lighting sucked for photography, but here’s a picture of dinner cooking. Those foil packets on the right are two heads of garlic I brought for roasting.
Miss Chef and I had a fun time, eating, drinking and meeting some new friends. But that was just the start of our weekend. Of course Saturday was full of markets, interviews and the like. But Sunday was the big event. The Piedmont Culinary Guild, a collection of chefs, farmers and other nodes in the local food network, was putting on its second annual Carved event, and Miss Chef and I were both volunteering.
We gather over 25 local chefs in one place, give them each a pumpkin and two hours to play. The public pays to watch, vote and enjoy some free samples, music and other entertainment. To be clear, the samples were of locally grown popcorn and pressed-on-site cider, not raw pumpkin.
We set up two long tables, back to back, halfway down the market. There were a whole lot of pumpkins to admire and vote on. This one below was on its way to becoming one of the Wild Things from the Maurice Sendak book.
This is a student at the Art Institute, who just happens to be from Thailand, where they take their fruit carving seriously.
There were no restrictions on props, so there were clouds of dry ice, extra lights…
…and even live fish! This was my favorite, but it was unveiled very late in the proceedings, after most people had already voted.
Halfway through the carving, I was dragooned into making announcements—“30 minutes left, buy more voting tickets and stop by our t-shirt table!”—so I didn’t get photos of all the finished products. This next one ended up being the winner—it was labeled “Spooky Sushi,” and I think its popularity was due in part to the original way he broke the pumpkin down into a tube, which he then sliced into rounds.
I don’t eat sushi, so I don’t get it.
After a 5-hour shift of hauling tables and chairs and standing on concrete flooring, I woke up sore and stiff on Monday. But I didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste. I had deadlines and interviews lined up all week (although my interview schedule keeps changing). My weekly online stories had garnered the attention of a caterer we know who’s starting up another side business and needed some web content written. So, bam, I’m a web content writer. My first freelance contract!
Anyway, I had that draft due, along with my usual Wednesday deadline. But I had to get them in early, because Wednesday was already packed, with a conference call and two foodie events.
The first event was in Miss Chef’s A la Carte class. She asked Matt, a sous-chef whose family has a beef business, if he’d sell her half a cow and come in to show the students how to break it down.
Which he did.
That’s 350 pounds of grass-fed beef. Matt is more comfortable fabricating pigs, so he recruited another chef, Clark, to help him out. Miss Chef and another instructor had to lend a hand, too.
After an hour and a half with several knives and a couple of saws, they had this ready to store in the cooler.
This is more or less what they call “primal cuts,” which the students will have to break down further into ribs, steaks, etc. If they can buy entire animals or even primal cuts, they’ll save their future kitchens a lot of money.
My second foodie event of the day was on the opposite side of the food preparation scale. One of our favorite restaurants, Passion8 (where we got to know Matt when he was sous-chef there), has moved nearer to uptown Charlotte, and tonight was their media night. They invited all us important writer types to tour the new space, with a glass of Prosecco in hand and elegant hors d’oeuvres coming around.
Again, I had to fight with low lighting. This is the main dining area—out of three—with the bar behind it. There are lots of curtains used to separate different sections, which should also help with baffling sound in this high-ceilinged space.
A view from the “mezzanine” area down to the bar, with the main dining room to the left.
These were sweet potato chips with a squash crema and some stuff I can’t remember…
…and this is the whole selection of hors d’oeuvres. From front to back, tomato & shallot salad on olive oil cracker, braised chicken with apricot and sesame on lettuce, the sweet potato chip, braised pork on house-made foccacia and truffled shortbread with foie gras mousse and muscadine foam.
Part of the reason I’m bothering with all the detailed ingredients is that tomorrow I have to sit down and write a concise couple of paragraphs about this opening for Creative Loafing. It’s a quick turnaround time, but I’m feeling generous today, since they just came out with…
…my first cover story!
Yup, 2000 words worth of freaky stories collected from some of my favorite chef friends. Click the picture to read them for yourself.
And now, it’s off to bed. Tomorrow’s another adventure.